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Cheese Plate: Take a Hike

Salt Lake City cheeseplate

Summer in the Salt Lake Valley, where I work as a cheesemonger at Liberty Heights Fresh, is a time of soaring heat. To keep cool, locals head to the hills to enjoy mountain vistas and the refreshing breezes of the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges. For an extended day hike or overnight camping, my friends and I jet to Mirror Lake Highway, about 90 minutes east of the city over the dramatic, 10,715-foot-high Bald Mountain Pass. We trek into the vast pine and aspen forests surrounded by majestic peaks and alpine lakes.

Cheese is the ideal treat for this type of journey: Just throw it in the cooler, no camping stove or cooking equipment required. These hard cheeses travel well and reward your efforts with bold flavors. Bring along a few snacks to match—dried fruits, nuts, and, of course, beer. Find a shady spot, and you’re set to enjoy a gourmet meal al fresco.

Cheeseplate consisting of Wasatch Mountain Reserve Gruyere, Chartufo Truffle, and Pondhopper cheeses


1. Wasatch Mountain Reserve Gruyère

Pictured at top

Rockhill Creamery – Richmond, Utah
Raw cow’s milk; Traditional rennet

Jennifer Hines and Pete Schropp began creating their small-batch, semi-soft and buttery Gruyère at the suggestion of a cheesemonger friend, who noticed that their historic farm in Utah’s high mountains mimicked ideal conditions for classic alpine-style cheese. Wasatch Mountain Reserve is made with morning milk from the farm’s six cows. Aged at least 12 months, it’s nutty, with notes of sweet grass and a pleasantly tart lingering finish of fresh herbs.

2. Chartufo Tuffle

Pictured on right

Gold Creek Farms – Woodland, Utah
Raw cow’s milk; Traditional rennet

The addition of earthy black Italian truffles elevates this sweet and creamy aged white cheddar. Handcrafted by cheesemaker Fernando Chavez-Sandoval with milk from Gold Creek’s own Brown Swiss cows, wheels are aged for over a year, yielding an opulent, rich flavor and velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

3. Pondhopper

Pictured at bottom

Tumalo Farms – Bend, Ore.
Pasteurized goat’s milk; Traditional rennet

Made at a dairy located on an 84-acre farm in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains, Pondhopper is not only washed with a local microbrew, but curds are soaked in the beer before going into the mold for pressing. The result: A firm cheese with milky, sweet tang, notes of toasty baked bread and warm hops, and a lemony finish.

Trader Session IPA – Uinta Brewing Co.

The mild and bright hoppy character of this IPA from Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing Co. lends itself perfectly to pairings. Sunny citrus and delicate malt flavors make it a refreshing partner to lively cheeses. uintabrewing.com

Black Sphinx Dates

First discovered growing wild in Arizona in the 1920s, this species of unbelievably sweet, plump, and creamy dates grows nowhere else in the world. fresharizonadates.com

Photographed by Evi Abeler; styled by Laura Knoop

Cheesemonger Camden Densley

Camden Densley loves everything about cheese, especially Utah’s burgeoning local farmstead and artisan cheese movement. He is a cheesemonger at Salt Lake City’s specialty foods store Liberty Heights Fresh.

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